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London


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London is the capital and largest urban area of both England and the United Kingdom. An important settlement for two millennia, London's history goes back to its founding by the Romans. Since its settlement, London has been part of many movements and phenomena throughout history, including the English Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and the Gothic Revival. The city's core, the ancient City of London, still retains its limited medieval boundaries; but since at least the 19th century the name "London" has also referred to the whole metropolis that has developed around it. Today the bulk of this conurbation forms the London region of England and the Greater London administrative area, with its own elected mayor and assembly.

London is one of the world's leading business, financial and cultural centres and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion and the arts contribute to its status as a major global city. Central London is the headquarters of more than half of the UK's top 100 listed companies (the FTSE 100) and over 100 of Europe's 500 largest companies. The city is a major tourist destination both for domestic and overseas visitors, with annual expenditure by tourists of around £15 billion.

London boasts four World Heritage Sites: the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's Church; the Tower of London; the historic settlement of Greenwich; and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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London's population draws from a wide range of peoples, cultures, and religions, and over 300 languages are spoken within the city. As of 2006, it had an official population of 7,512,400 within the boundaries of Greater London and is the most populous municipality in the European Union. As of 2001, the Greater London Urban Area had a population of 8,278,251 and the metropolitan area is estimated to have a total population of between 12 and 14 million. The public transport network, administered by Transport for London, is one of the most extensive in the world, and Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport in the world for international traffic.

Governance

Local government

The administration of London is formed of two tiers — a city-wide, strategic tier and a local tier. City-wide administration is coordinated by the Greater London Authority (GLA), while local administration is carried out by 33 smaller authorities. The GLA consists of two elected parts; the Mayor of London, who has executive powers, and the London Assembly, who scrutinise the Mayor's decisions and can accept or reject his budget proposals each year. The GLA was set up in 2000 to replace the similar Greater London Council (GLC) which had been abolished in 1986. The headquarters of the GLA and the Mayor of London is at City Hall; the Mayor is Boris Johnson. The 33 local authorities are the councils of the 32 London boroughs and the City of London Corporation. They are responsible for local services not overseen by the GLA, such as local planning, schools, social services, local roads and refuse collection.

National government

London is the home of the Government of the United Kingdom which is located around the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Many government departments are located close to Parliament, particularly along Whitehall, including the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street. The British Parliament is often referred to as the "Mother of Parliaments" (although this sobriquet was first applied to England itself by John Bright) because it has been the model for most other parliamentary systems, and its Acts have created many other parliaments. London is represented in the national Parliament by 74 Members of Parliament (MPs) who correspond to local parliamentary constituencies. For a list of London constituencies, see List of Parliamentary constituencies in Greater London. Of these 74 MPs, currently 44 are from the Labour Party, 21 are Conservatives, 8 are Liberal Democrats and one is from the RESPECT party.

Geography

Scope 

London can be geographically defined in a number of ways, although the situation was once even more ambiguous than it is now and open to periodic legal debate. At London's core is the small, ancient City of London which is commonly known as 'the City' or 'the Square Mile'. London's metropolitan area grew considerably during the Victorian era and again during the Interwar period, but expansion halted in the 1940s because of World War II and Green Belt legislation, and the area has been largely static since. The London region of England, also commonly known as Greater London, is the area administered by the Greater London Authority. The urban sprawl of the conurbation—or Greater London Urban Area—covers a roughly similar area, with a slightly larger population. Beyond this is the vast London commuter belt.

Forty percent of Greater London is covered by the London postal district, within which 'LONDON' forms part of the postal address. The London telephone area code covers a larger area, similar in size to Greater London, although some outer districts are omitted and some places just outside are included. The area within the orbital M25 motorway is sometimes used to define the "London area" and the Greater London boundary has been aligned to it in places. Greater London is split for some purposes into Inner London and Outer London. Informally, the city is split into North, South, East, West and often also Central London.

The Metropolitan Police District, city-wide local government area and London transport area have varied over time, but broadly coincide with the Greater London boundary. The Romans may have marked the centre of Londinium with the London Stone, still visible on Cannon Street. The coordinates of the nominal centre of London (traditionally considered to be the original Eleanor Cross at Charing Cross, near the junction of Trafalgar Square and Whitehall) are approximately 51°30'29?N 00°07'29?W? / ?51.50806, -0.12472. Trafalgar Square has also become a point for celebrations and protests.

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Status

Within London, both the City of London and the City of Westminster have City status and both the City of London and the remainder of Greater London are the ceremonial counties. The current area of Greater London was historically part of the counties of Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, Essex and Hertfordshire. Unlike most capital cities, London's status as the capital of the UK has never been granted or confirmed officially—by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the UK's unwritten constitution. The capital of England was moved to London from Winchester as the Palace of Westminster developed in the 12th and 13th centuries to become the permanent location of the royal court, and thus the political capital of the nation. According to the Collins English Dictionary definitionof 'the seat of government,' London is not the capital of England, as England does not have its own government. However according to the Oxford English Reference dictionary definition of 'the most important town...' and many other authorities, London is the capital of England.

Topography

Greater London covers an area of 609 square miles (1,580 km2), making it the 37th largest urban area in the world. Its primary geographical feature is the Thames, a navigable river which crosses the city from the south-west to the east. The Thames Valley is a floodplain surrounded by gently rolling hills including Parliament Hill, Addington Hills, and Primrose Hill. These hills presented no significant obstacle to the growth of London from its origins as a port on the north side of the river, and therefore London is roughly circular. Many of the highest points in London are located in the suburbs or on the boundaries with adjacent counties.

The Thames was once a much broader, shallower river with extensive marshlands; at high tide, its shores reached five times their present width. Since the Victorian era it has been extensively embanked, and many of its London tributaries now flow underground. The Thames is a tidal river, and London is vulnerable to flooding. The threat has increased over time due to a slow but continuous rise in high water level by the slow 'tilting' of Britain (up in the north and down in the south) caused by post-glacial rebound. In 1974, a decade of work began on the construction of the Thames Barrier across the Thames at Woolwich to deal with this threat. While the barrier is expected to function as designed until roughly 2030, concepts for its future enlargement or redesign are already being discussed.

 

Transport

Transport is one of the four areas of policy administered by the Mayor of London, however the mayor's financial control is limited and he does not control the heavy rail network, although in November 2007 he assumed responsibility for the North London Railway as well as several other lines, to form London Overground. The public transport network, administered by Transport for London (TfL), is one of the most extensive in the world, but faces congestion and reliability issues, which a large investment programme is attempting to address, including £7 billion (€10 billion) of improvements planned for the Olympics. London has been commended as the city with the best public transport. Cycling is an increasingly popular way to get around London. The London Cycling Campaign lobbies for better provision.

Railways 

The London Underground is the oldest, longest, and most expansive metro system in the world, dating from 1863.The centrepiece of the public transport network is the London Underground—commonly referred to as The Tube—which has eleven interconnecting lines. It is the oldest, longest, and most expansive metro system in the world, dating from 1863. The system was home to the world's first underground electric line, the City & South London Railway, which began service in 1890. Over three million journeys a day are made on the Underground network, nearly 1 billion journeys each year. The Underground serves the central area and most suburbs to the north of the Thames, while those to the south are served by an extensive suburban rail surface network.

The Docklands Light Railway is a second metro system using smaller and lighter trains, which opened in 1987, serving East London and Greenwich on both sides of the Thames. Commuter and intercity railways generally do not cross the city, instead running into fourteen terminal stations scattered around its historic centre; the exception is the Thameslink route operated by First Capital Connect, with terminus stations at Bedford, Brighton and Moorgate. Since the early 1990s, increasing pressures on the commuter rail and Underground networks have led to increasing demands—particularly from businesses and the City of London Corporation—for Crossrail: a £10 billion east–west heavy rail connection under central London, which was given the green light in early October 2007.

High-speed Eurostar trains link St Pancras International with Lille and Paris in France, and Brussels in Belgium. Journey times to Paris and Brussels of 2h 15 and 1h 51 respectively make London closer to continental Europe than the rest of Britain by virtue of the newly completed High Speed 1 rail link to the Channel Tunnel. From 2009 this line will also allow for high speed domestic travel from Kent into London. The redevelopment of St. Pancras was key to London's Olympic bid, as the station also serves two international airports through Thameslink, and will also provide direct rail links to the Olympic site at Stratford using British Rail Class 395 trains running under the Olympic Javelin name; these will be based on Japanese Shinkansen high-speed trains.

Buses

London's bus network is one of the largest in the world, running 24 hours a day, with 8,000 buses, 700 bus routes, and over 6 million passenger journeys made every weekday. In 2003, the network's ridership was estimated at over 1.5 billion passenger trips per annum, more than the Underground. Around £850m is taken in revenue each year.

London has the largest wheelchair accessible network in the world and, from the 3rd quarter of 2007, became more accessible to hearing and visually impaired passengers as audio-visual announcements were introduced. The distinctive red double-decker buses are internationally recognised, and are a trademark of London transport along with black cabs and the Tube.

Air

London is a major international air transport hub. Eight airports use the words London Airport in their name, but most traffic passes through one of five major airports. London Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport in the world for international traffic, and is the major hub of the nation's flag carrier, British Airways. In March 2008 its fifth terminal was opened, and plans are already being considered for a sixth terminal. Similar traffic, with the addition of some low-cost short-haul flights, is also handled at London Gatwick Airport. London Stansted Airport and London Luton Airport cater mostly for low-cost short-haul flights. London City Airport, the smallest and most central airport, is focused on business travellers, with a mixture of full service short-haul scheduled flights and considerable business jet traffic.

Roads

M25 is a Circular Ring that goes around London; it's also the largest circular motorway of the world. Although the majority of journeys involving central London are made by public transport, travel in outer London is car-dominated. The inner ring road (around the city centre), the North and South Circular roads (in the suburbs), and the outer orbital motorway (the M25, outside the built-up area) encircle the city and are intersected by a number of busy radial routes—but very few motorways penetrate into inner London. A plan for a comprehensive network of motorways throughout the city (the Ringways Plan) was prepared in the 1960s but was mostly cancelled in the early 1970s. In 2003, a congestion charge was introduced to reduce traffic volumes in the city centre. With a few exceptions, motorists are required to pay £8 per day to drive within a defined zone encompassing much of congested central London. Motorists who are residents of the defined zone can buy a vastly reduced season pass which is renewed monthly and is cheaper than a corresponding bus fare.

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  • Published: 23/02/2009 12:01:49 P
  • Category: London